The U.S. State Department’s Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary (PDAS) for Population, Refugees and Migration Simon Henshaw made an official visit to Nassau August 14-16. The purpose of the visit was to meet with government officials and community leaders in an effort to understand the challenges The Bahamas faces with regard to mixed migration issues and to explore potential avenues for cooperation on the issue. As The Bahamas is a target and transition country for sizeable mixed migration flows that include refugees, the bilateral discussions focused on the impact of mixed migration on Bahamian society.
On August 14, U.S. Chargé d’Affaires John Dinkelman hosted a welcome reception in honor of PDAS Henshaw at the British Colonial Hilton Hotel. The event brought together senior U.S. and Bahamian government officials including the Hon. Shane Gibson, Minister of Labor and National Insurance, Senator the Honorable Allyson Maynard Gibson, Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs who welcomed Mr. Henshaw on behalf of the Bahamian Government, The Honorable Dr. Hubert Minnis, Leader of the Opposition, Ms. Cleola Hamilton, Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration, Commodore Roderick Bowe, Commander, Royal Bahamas Defence Force, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration Mr. Philip Miller, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Marine Resources and Local Government Mr. J. Anthony McKinney and a cross-section of the Bahamian community committed to addressing migration issues.
While in Nassau, PDAS Henshaw paid a courtesy call on Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration officials to ascertain the Bahamian government’s views towards Haitian statelessness and refugee status determination. PDAS Henshaw also used the opportunity to commend the Bahamian government for allowing the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to establish a shelter for refugees in The Bahamas. The center is currently supported by the Church of God, The Bahamas Red Cross and UNHCR.
As The Bahamas has developed a community of between 40,000 to 80,000 Haitian migrants, many of who neither have Haitian nor Bahamian citizenship, PDAS Henshaw’s meeting with the Haitian Ambassador to The Bahamas His Excellency Antonio Rodrigue served as a unique opportunity for both leaders to discuss the Haitian Embassy’s concerns on critical migration issues.
PDAS Henshaw also engaged Bahamian and Haitian church leaders to garner the views of religious leaders on Haitian migrants and how they interact with the Haitian community. The discussions also focused on social inclusion and ways the local churches can engage in communal activities, build bridges between the two communities and explore ways that churches can promote the acceptance of Haitians and mitigate social exclusion as well as advocate for regular dialogue between the Haitian and Bahamian communities.
During the two-day visit PDAS Henshaw also held a series of meetings with Bahamas Red Cross officials where he was able to learn about the role of the center and discuss a number of migrant issues. He also toured the UNHCR refugee shelter, the Carmichael Road Detention Center and a Haitian village in Nassau.